Ghana’s Reproductive Health Education Policy and Guideline: The way forward to Effective Implementation
Too many young people receive confusing and conflicting information about relationships and reproductive health, as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood. This has led to increasing demand from young people for reliable information, which prepares them for a safe, productive and fulfilling life.
Reproductive Health Education (RHE) is central to the health and well-being of adolescents and young people. It is essential for young people to be able to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy, HIV and sexually transmitted infections, to promote values of tolerance, mutual respect and non-violence in relationships, and to support a safe transition into adulthood.
RHE, when implemented well, will impact positively in terms of improving knowledge and self- esteem, changing attitudes, gender and social norms, and building self-efficacy of adolescents and young people. It will have a positive impact on safer sexual behaviours while not hastening the sexual activity of young people. RHE will empower young people to make informed decisions about relationships and sexuality and navigate a world where gender-based violence, gender inequality, early and unintended pregnancies, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) still pose serious risks to their health and well-being. Equally, a lack of high-quality, age- and developmentally-appropriate reproductive health education may leave children and young people vulnerable to harmful sexual behaviours and sexual exploitation.
Having gone through the proposed new reproductive health education policy guidelines, the Centre for Adolescents and Women’s Health Initiative (CAWHI) proposed that:
For the RHE policy to be effective, the content of the Reproductive Health Education Policy must respond appropriately to the specific context and needs of young people and include a concerted focus on gender discrimination, sexual and gender-based violence, HIV and AIDS, child marriage and harmful traditional practices. Engaging parents and communities in its implementation are critical, as is the adequate training and capacity of the teachers who deliver it.
It is important to also recognize that the education sector alone cannot improve young people’s sexual and reproductive health and must be complemented by youth-friendly, non-judgmental, confidential health services. The policy should, therefore, take this into consideration and make provisions for that.
Also, the RHE Policy should be Pilot-testing to allow for adjustments to be made to any of its components. This gives programme developers an opportunity to fine-tune the content and discover important changes that need to be made. The entire guideline should be pilot-tested, and practical feedback from participants should be obtained, especially on what elements of the guideline participants thought worked well and those that didn’t, as well as ways to make weak elements stronger, more relevant and more effective.
We think that Module 3 Session 4: Fertility, pregnancy-related issues and childbirth is not age-appropriate for a primary 6 child at 11years. Maybe we would have appreciated it more if we know what actually will be taught under that module. Otherwise, we will recommend that module be taken out totally or should be replaced with Teenage pregnancy and its effect on the teenager.
Lastly, upholding (and strictly enforcing) professional codes of conduct that prohibit teacher-learner sexual relationships and taking consistent action with teachers found to be in violation of the code of conduct will become necessary for effective implementation of the policy.
We recognized that RHE plays a crucial role in addressing the health and well-being of children and young people. Applying a learner-centred approach, RHE not only provides children and young people with age-appropriate and phased education on human rights, gender equality, relationships, reproduction, sexual behaviours risks and prevention of ill health, but also provides an opportunity to present reproductive health and sexuality with a positive approach, emphasizing values such as respect, inclusion, non-discrimination, equality, empathy, responsibility and reciprocity.
We commend the Government of Ghana, specifically, the Ministry of Education, Ghana Education Service, Ministry of Health and all key stakeholders for prioritizing reproductive health education as means of ensuring access to accurate, age-appropriate, gender-sensitive and quality information with which young people can make informed decisions about their lives and reproductive health and rights.
Augustine Kumah (Executive Director)